The General Services Administration came under new scrutiny Thursday with the release of a video of an employee rapping in sunglasses about extravagant spending at a Las Vegas conference, boasting that he’ll “never be under investigation” for the excess.
The six-minute clip was entered in a talent contest among 300 employees who flew to the four-day training and team-building event at the luxury M Resort Spa Casino in October 2010.
It won top prize — and was showcased at a red-carpet awards ceremony during the conference’s closing dinner. In another clip, a top official with the GSA’s Public Buildings Service rewards 28-year-old Hank Terlaje by making him honorary commissioner for a day. Deputy Commissioner David Foley then jokes about an after-hours party the night before in the loft suite of Commissioner Robert Peck, who was fired Monday.
“The hotel would like to talk to you about paying for the party that was held in the commissioner’s suite last night,” Foley jokes. The crowd breaks into laughs and applause.
The clips, released Thursday by the office of House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), provided a bookend to a week of salacious revelations of government excess: $823,000 in taxpayer money for a junket at the height of the recession that involved little training and plenty of poolside revelry.
The clips were provided to Issa — among the Obama administration’s biggest critics on Capitol Hill — by the GSA inspector general’s office, which on Monday released a year-long investigation of the Western Regions conference. Hours before Brian Miller’s report went online, GSA Administrator Martha Johnson had resigned, two of her top deputies who attended the conference were fired and four regional commissioners had been escorted from their offices, placed on administrative leave.
It was a swift reaction from an administration that issued a directive to all agencies last year to review expenses on travel and conferences, saving $280 million, White House officials said.
The GSA, a little-known but powerful agency that controls the government’s real estate holdings and buys supplies from car fleets to computers, became Exhibit A in the election-year war between Democrats and Republicans over federal spending.
“It takes a lot of work to spend $3,000 a person and at a time when unemployment was nearly 10 percent, Americans were suffering and GSA was enjoying the good times and doing so with high-ranking political employees,” Issa said in a statement. He blamed the White House, which learned of Miller’s investigation 11 months ago, for waiting until his report was public to remove the agency’s top leaders.
GSA spokesman Adam Elkington called the video “another example of the complete lack of judgment” exhibited during the Western Regions conference.
“Our agency continues to be appalled by this indefensible behavior, and we are taking every step possible to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again,” he said.
In a lot of workplaces, employees roast their company culture at parties or conferences. But when an employee is rewarded for lampooning wasteful spending by his bosses when such spending is under fire all over Washington, it looks bad.
The video opens with Terlaje playing the ukulele to the tune of Travie McCoy & Bruno Mars’s “I Wanna Be a Billionaire,” and rapping about what life would be like were he to become Public Buildings chief. Among his promises: GSA would “never be under OIG investigation,” a reference to the Office of Inspector General.
“Obama better prepare, when I’m commissioner,” Terlaje sings as the clip turns into a rap song. He is joined walking down an office hallway by a female colleague.
“I’d have a road show like [Acting Regional GSA Administrator Jeffrey] Neely, every time you see me rolling on 20s yeah, in my GOV. Spend BA 61 all on fun. ATF can’t touch GS-15 guns! Cause I buy everything your field office can’t afford. Every GS-5 would get a top hat award. Donate my vacation, love to the nation, I’ll never be under OIG investigation.”
Terlaje, reached at the GSA’s Honolulu office, declined to comment.
Staff writer Timothy R. Smith and researcher Lucy Shackelford contributed to this story.